Friday, November 25, 2011

chicken curry with mustard greens

Curry is HUGE in Singapore. How huge, you ask? It was not so long ago, in the eye of a social storm within our fair isle. It’s a pretty convoluted story, but the gist of it is that two neighbours got themselves in the news, both locally and internationally, when one of the neighbours (foreigners from China) raised an almighty stink about  the other neighbour’s (a local Indian family) habit of cooking curry, which every foodie worth his or her salt knows, is no shrinking violet in the olfactory department. It’s no secret that if you cook curry in an apartment kitchen, the aromatic vapours can snake their way up and down the entire apartment building.

Still, we Singaporeans regardless of race, LOVE  our curry and were quite incensed that the mainland Chinese family had actually tried to stop the Indian family cooking their curry by bringing the matter to the attention of the local Community Mediation Centre. Thus was the Cook and Share a Pot of Curry movement born. Through this movement, and thanks to the power of the internet, over 60 000 people worldwide cooked and/or ate curry either alone or with family and friends, on August 21 2011, to spread the message of tolerance, respect and acceptance of unfamiliar cultures.

Guess the moral of the story is, don’t come between a Singaporean and his curry?  Or should that be, foreigners should toe the line and play nice in their host country? This particular curry which is south east Asian in style rather than Indian, is one of my favourites, and I could truly eat it almost every day. The addition of mustard greens in a curry is quite unusual, unless you are Peranakan Chinese as they love their mustard greens and use it fresh and salted, in curries and pickles quite freely. In fact, this style of curry is more often made with salted mustard greens. Hands up, anyone who loves a really great, SMELLY curry!!!!

Prep 20 mins  Cook 35 mins  Serves 4

2 stalks lemongrass, discard top half and bash bottoms
1 large red onion, slice thinly
1 knob fresh ginger (5 cm or 2 in long) peel and grate fine
6 cloves garlic, peel and grate fine
2 Tbsp Thai red curry or Tom Yum paste
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 – 2 tsp pure chilli powder (optional – if you want extra heat)
1 chicken, cut into 10 pieces (leave on or discard skin as you wish)
1 cup water
1/2 cup thick coconut milk
1 small head mustard greens or tua chye (substitute with your favourite bitter greens, bitter melon, baby corn, straw or oyster mushrooms)
2 small tomatoes, quarter
1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp sugar (optional)

Heat 4 – 6 tablespoons vegetable oil in a deep pot and cook the lemongrass and onion on moderate heat until limp and fragrant.

Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly until everything begins to brown. Add the curry paste, turmeric and chilli powder and stir until thoroughly combined and fragrant.

Put in the well drained chicken pieces and stir to coat with the spice mix. When chicken begins to turn opaque, add the water and bring to a boil.

Lower heat, cover pot and simmer until chicken is almost tender. Add the mustard greens and coconut milk and simmer another 5 minutes, stirring often, so coconut milk doesn’t curdle.

When mustard greens are cooked but still retaining some crunch, add tomatoes and season curry to taste.

Simmer briefly and dish out. Serve with white rice.


  1. The curry looks so inviting and tasty!

  2. I have never tried mustard green in curry. For a while I thought it was kiam chai when you said smelly curry. The only other "smelly" curry I can think of is kiam hu (salt fish) curry. Just the mention make my mouth water. I will have to give this tua chai gulai a try one of these days.

  3. hello there..i've tried this version of curry..but without d mustard greens..tq for sharing..hopefully u dun mind me sharing it with my other frenz..


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